As the world begins to move again and requests to participate in international events multiply, I will increasingly have opportunities to share the airport perspective in a variety of global events in different parts of the world. This will also give me the opportunity to experience diverse airport terminals as a passenger and to witness firsthand, the uptick in passenger traffic.
During the month of April, on my way to Manila, the Philippines, for the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit, I connected via Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s preliminary busiest airport in terms of total passenger traffic for 2021, as well as Incheon Airport, the world’s first Level 4 Airport Customer Experience accredited airport. At the WTTC Summit, I took part in a panel on the important subject of diversity and inclusion, with travel and tourism colleagues Aradhana Khowala from Aptamind Partners, Candice Iyog from Cebu Pacific Air, Aileen Clemente from Rajah Travel Corporation, and Gaurav Pokhariyal from The Indian Hotels Company Limited.
As the industry rehires to accommodate the recovery of air traffic expected in the next few years, all aviation stakeholders have a strategic opportunity to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive ecosystem. In fact, this goal must be at the heart of airports’ strategy for sustainable growth. This is particularly true as we compete with other sectors to attract, invest, and retain current and future talent.
Building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive aviation ecosystem not only is the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. A heterogenous workforce is known to bring dynamic innovation and provide insights into the diverse needs of consumers—thus driving better businesses that are more apt to respond to market needs.
For instance, it can allow airports to better understand the needs of people with disabilities (including non-apparent ones) and reduced mobility (including the elderly) that amount to over 1 billion people worldwide. In this regard, airports have been taking the lead. For example, over 30 airports including Heathrow Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport have joined the Sunflower Lanyard program, which allows persons with invisible disabilities to discreetly indicate their need for assistance to airport staff.
Another example is San Francisco International Airport’s Racial Equity Action Plan, that seeks to assess current conditions in seven key focus areas, identify necessary resources to support improvement efforts, and hold the airport accountable by setting timely and measurable goals and commitments.
On my way back from the from WTTC Global Summit—on a flight from Tokyo to New York—I had the opportunity for the first time since the pandemic, to fly without a mask. This event and the continuation of the easing of travel restrictions around the world are encouraging signs that recovery is well underway.
In addition, I had the opportunity to discuss with Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, regarding the value of the ASQ program in improving the passenger experience as well as the Airport Health Accreditation (AHA) program in strengthening traveller confidence in the realm of health and hygiene. In fact, on my way back to Montreal, I was able to observe the positive impact of the program at Newark Airport.
What’s more, earlier this month, ACI released the top busiest airports in the world for 2021 showing many previous busiest airports rejoining the top ranks. In terms of total passenger traffic, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is back at the top of 2021 rankings, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and Denver International Airport. After reaching the top rank in 2020, Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport slid to the eighth position in 2021.
All top 10 airports have a significant share of domestic traffic, the traffic segment that has been leading global recovery. The biggest improvement recorded was from Orlando International Airport that jumped from 27th position in 2020 to seventh spot in 2021.
Although we are cautious that recovery could face multiple headwinds, the momentum created by reopening plans by countries could lead to an uptick in travel in the second half of 2022. As such, ACI World continues to advocate to governments to follow the data and ease travel restrictions to safely restore the movement of people, goods, and services. This will provide travellers with more travel options and boost the overall recovery through aviation’s unique role in boosting trade, tourism, investment, and of course, creating jobs.
The city that is the airport requires a range of different professionals and technicians and the airport of tomorrow will require more, and possibly different, disciplines. Recognizing this, ACI has become the world’s leading provider of airport management and operations education.
ACI Global Training offers executive leadership coursework and exchanges, professional accreditation, and subject-matter training for competency. A wide-range of classroom and online courses can be easily accessed through the new ACI Learning Hub.
Particularly relevant is the ICAO-ACI Airport Management Professional Accreditation Program (AMPAP). Airport management, as a profession, has faced pressure to establish ways and means of promoting its credibility and ensuring an appropriate degree of standardization of related expertise globally. AMPAP was and continues to be a response to this demand, created to provide accessible, affordable, and universally relevant specialized management training to the global airport community.
Looking forward, we need to work together to promote these multifaceted careers. This will require more engagement and education with our communities, including a stronger presence in colleges, universities, career fairs, etc. It will also require amping up aviation’s sustainability agenda and showcasing our commitment to the decarbonization of the sector.
Last, but certainly not least, April saw the announcement of the 2021 inductees into the “ACI Director General’s Roll of Excellence.” The honour is conferred to airports that have won multiple awards over a five-year period in the last 10 years as part of the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) program.
Congratulations again to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport (Ahmedabad, India), Sultan Aji Muhammad Sulaiman Sepinggan Balikpapan Airport (Kalimantan, Indonesia), Fiumicino Airport (Rome, Italy), Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (Shanghai Hongqiao, China). They have consistently demonstrated that the customer is at the centre of everything they do. This is made even more impressive as we recover from the most challenging time in our sector’s history.
The inductees will be celebrated at the ASQ Awards Ceremony during the upcoming ACI Customer Experience Global Summit in September, the premier global event focused on airport customer experience. Hosted by Kraków Airport, this year’s event will take place under the theme: “Re/Humanizing the Airport Experience.” Winners of the 2021 edition of the ASQ Awards will also be recognized at the event, delivered in partnership with Amadeus. I invite all our members, partners, and the aviation community to register and attend this leading summit dedicated to meeting the evolving needs of passengers.